Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On Big Storms and Superheroes

Three-year-old Alex, a little guy in my Primary class (with curly, curly hair and big brown eyes), sits so quietly and reverently that I worried about him at first. He barely makes a peep. Once in a while, however, he will raise his hand in response to a question, and give an incredibly detailed and (most often) amazingly accurate answer. There is one caveat: the answer must always involve a "big storm" of some kind. He worked in the big storm reference quite easily and aptly when the answer involved Jonah and the whale, and on another occasion when we were discussing the pioneers. He had to get a little more creative when the answer was about prayer, but, in the end, it all made perfect sense.

Another of my little guys brings a big stuffed Spiderman doll every Sunday. Spidey is a little worse for wear: he's missing a foot, and part of his head. He also loses bits of stuffing during each class - bits that are eagerly scooped up by his classmates and referred to as "clouds." It is important that Spiderman get his own chair during the lesson, as well as his own crayons and paper. He prefers the lined paper from my notebook, but only if it has no rips at the top. Spidey is quite particular.

Along with the importance of big storms and Spiderman's preferences, I've also learned that there is one magical response which can serve as the answer to any question asked in Primary. This response is, of course, "Jesus."

Exhibit A: Last week's "I Am Thankful for Water" lesson.

"Where does water come from?"

The hands shoot up before I finish my sentence.

"Jesus!" calls out Spidey's pal.

"And what do we use water for?"

A second of silence as they ponder.

"Jesus! Jesus!"

I have a fleeting thought about working in some reference to the water we drink in Sacrament meeting, and how that relates to their answers, but instead reply:

"Yes! We all love Jesus, and He loves us! Who wants to color?"

For several weeks now, we've been learning the Articles of Faith. We are learning them by singing them, because they've been set to music.

My problem with this is three-fold:

Firstly, I just don't think the Articles were written with musical accompaniment in mind. They don't rhyme, and they've got pretty awkward rhythms. It's kind of like setting the Declaration of Independence to music. (Although most likely that's been attempted as well.)

Secondly, the tunes to which they've been set are in a minor key, and sound like a cross between the soundtrack in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion and "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler On The Roof.

Thirdly, no one is explaining what the Articles mean. Not that I expect my three-year-olds to grasp the finer points of doctrine, but when they're singing about not being punished for Adam's transgression (in a minor key, no less), it'd be nice if they at least knew why we were teaching them to sing about it in the first place.

This brings me to another issue. Raise your hand if you remember the Primary song "It Shouldn't Be Hard To Sit Very Still." (Also in a minor key.) Sing it with me if you recall:

It shouldn't be hard to sit very still
To think about Jesus, his cross on the hill
And all that he suffered and did for me
It shouldn't be hard to sit quietly
It shouldn't be hard even though I am small
To think always of Jesus. Not hard at all.

Hmmm. Maybe it's just me, but at age 31 I still find it hard to sit very still. What was the reasoning behind this song? Let's start the guilt at an early age?

So I've decided I'm going to write my own Primary song. To keep my little class interested, it will be about big storms (in life), and how Jesus can help us through them (even more than a superhero like Spiderman). And it'll have a catchy, upbeat tune. So catchy that you won't even be able to sit quietly while you sing it.


Carolyn (Sarah's sister) said...

As a primary pianist, I could write you a whole essay about those Article of Faith songs, but it would take up too much room.

The primary song that always disturbed me as a small child is the "through a still small voice" song. It has a really spooky tune, and says that a ghost will speak to you to save you from the evil you may see. The message is supposed to be one of comfort: the Holy Ghost will guide and protect you. But with such a scary tune, I didn't feel one lick of reassurance. One of my most frightening experiences as a pre-school child was walking around in my dark house seeking a midnight drink of water with the words and music of that song in my head. I was sure that the Ghost or the Evil was waiting around every corner to reach out and grab me.

p.s. Really like the new design of your blog page.

Carolyn said...

I agree that you should write an upbeat primary song. The pre-schoolers will thank you.

AzĂșcar said...

That hymn upsets me.

It seems antithetical to everything that He stands for--and that imagery!

Eagerly awaiting your song.

Kiki said...

My friend who teaches the Sunbeams here (screw not giving the classes fun names like Sunbeams and CTRS and Blazers) was telling us on Sunday about how her class gives the Jesus answer to every question, too. One of the boys was asked what song he wanted to sing, and he replied, "The Spiderman song." When asked which song that was, he got up in front of everyone and sang it. The kids also are big on POWER! Everything is power.

Kiki said...

Oh, yeah...and I can't stand those AofF songs either. I now have them in my head. Thank you very much.

Whodoyouthink? said...

Speaking of POWER ....

I'm the Primary pianist again, for the 15th time since 1957, and I think there has never been anything as disturbing among the Tots of Zion as seeing a roomful of little ones thrusting canvas blocks (with handles) containing the Word of God into the air and screaming "SCRIP-shur POWER keeps me safe from SIN! ... SCRIP-shur POWER is the POW-WER to WIN!"

Come, Lord Jesus.

P.S. to Em: By this shallmenno.

Whodoyouthink? said...

But then, it IS upbeat ... and powerful!!! (Maybe I'm just a fuddydud?)

Emily said...

My husband spoon feeds our kids the power bit. As in, after we die we will have lots of power. Power to fly, power to make anything we want. They are planning on making dragons and monsters. As in, Grandpa won't need us to give him his binoculars back when we see him again, because he has lots of power now. As in, Jesus' power totally trumps the superheroes'.

Also, my least favorite Primary song: Book of Mormon Stories, also in a minor key. I think the "Indian" pounding beat is racist. But I have no problem with Scripture Power. And the AoF songs have grown on me.

carblemarble said...

My husband and I taught pre-sunbeams for a while. The first week in there we had 18 of them, two spoke Spanish and one spoke French. We speak no foreign languages... Also, pre-sumbeams only go to opening exercises, then you have them in a little class room for 1 1/2 hours and you are suppose to teach them a lesson during that time! HA!!! Ok.... to the point. We had one little boy who LOVED pirates! Everything he drew had to have a pirate ship in it. The captain had to have a pirate hat, a parrot on his shoulder, a patch over his eye, a hook for one hand and a peg leg. Oh, and the ship had to have a plank. One Sunday this boy shows up wearing one church shoe and one snow shoe. After church we asked him why his shoes didn't match.. the answer... "The boot is my peg leg!!!" From that time on he showed up every Sunday with one church shoe and one peg leg. Very cute.
As far as music, our kids loved the Easter Hosana song. The "HOS-AAAANNNNAAAAA" part was always 'sung' very loud.
Ah, those are the days of pre-sunbeams...

Layt said...

~j. said...

carblemarble, was that the class that my daughter was in? And are you referring to "Pegleg Ethan?"

Emmie, I still cannot believe that that is an actual song. I had never heard it until you all started chanting it at dinner. And the AofF songs? You know that it was SUCHASTRETCH for whomever composed them to get them to fit into some sort of a song. As for the one you mentioned: "And not for Adam's transgression...*and, repeat*".

I substitue taught the primary class in our Wymount ward, which meant: 1 7-year-old, 1 6-year-old, 3 4-year-olds, and 3 3-year-olds. I began by holding up a picture of the Savior. "Who is this?" I called on the little 3-year-old boy who was wearing a tie, and who had raised his hand. His answer?


carblemarble said...

~j - The very same Pegleg Ethan! We even saw them, a few months after we left the ward, in Wal-Mart and he was still wearing the boot!!

c jane said...

I now have a new favorite post.

P.S. Our Primary songs sound Jewish to me too. "Once there was a prophet..."

Emmie said...


You are delightful and fabulous.

P.S. Carolyn - I'd forgotten about the spooky Still Small Voice! Totally creepy.